Monday, May 11, 2009

The Grammarian, XVI

Here's a tough one, boys and girls.

First, get out your Lutheran Hymnals. I don't have Lutheran Service Book ready at hand, so I don't know if they preserved the language or not, but in any case, we're going to have a look at the well-loved Charles Wesley Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." It's #193 in TLH.

Now then.

Let's have a look at the fourth stanza, which in TLH is the last. It runs like this:

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to Thee by both be given!
Thee we greet triumphant now:
Hail, the resurrection Thou!

Now, here's a question for you: to whom does "Thou" in that last line refer?

It could be Jesus, of course, and since in our version it's capitalized, at least the editors thought so. Does anyone see why that might not be the case?

See, it's "Thou," not "Thee." Thou is subject, not object.

What this means is that perhaps it's meant to be written (i.e., edited) thus:

Hail, the resurrection, thou!

That is, a comma follows "resurrection" so that what we get when we parse the sentence and put things in a common order is this:

Hail thou the resurrection!

But there's another problem. Do you see it?

Look at line three:

"Thee we greet triumphant now:"

This would mean that if the number is matched, we might have had to render the fourth line grammatically as

Hail ye the resurrection!

Moreover, in the third line Christ ("Thee") is being addressed, so naturally we would attach the singular again to Him in the fourth line.

What this would mean is that Christ is being addressed as "the Resurrection Thou" in the fourth line, which seems to be adding a philosophical note to the hymn right at the end (Christ the Eternal Subject, rather as the great I AM, etc.)

That, however, seems a bit of a fremdkörper.

So what's the answer?

One needs to find the author's poetic license here, and the weight of selection seems to me to be on the side of "Hail thou the resurrection," thus:

Jesus, we greet you, triumphant now!
(aside, to the worshiper): Hail the resurrection!

In fact, I checked out some sites on this hymn. This site has it as I have suggested, putting 'thou' in lower case. Here is another site which does the same.

Interestingly, this one and this one change the lyrics to "Hail the Resurrection day" which doesn't even rhyme.

So it would seem that our esteemed TLH editors may have goofed, then, as I suspected. They either wanted to make of Mr. Wesley too much of a philosopher, or they got their thees and thous mixed up. And that is something thou shalt not do.

Here endeth the lesson.


Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

As if you have not already given us enough to think about, I will add this into the mix:

1. TLH formats this hymn as 6 stanzas.

2. The Service Book and Hymnal sets it in 3 stanzas by combining TLH 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and 5 and 6.

3. The US Episcopal Hymnal 1940 uses only 4 stanzas (in order: TLH 1, 4, 2, and 5).

4. The Methodist hymnal, 1964, uses
the same order as the Hymnal 1940; but with Alleluias added to each line.

5. The Methodist Hymnal, 1935, is the same as the above.

6. The American Lutheran Hymnal of 1930 does not even use the text common to all of the above.

When it comes to parsing this text, I would suggest taking a parsimonious approach. I, myself, would interpret the last line of the stanza in question in this manner: Hail, Thou who art the Resurrection.

Secondly, methinks thou hast thy "thees and thous" confused. Line 2: Praise to Thee (Lord).... Line 3: Thee (Lord) we greet.... Line 4: Thou (Lord, who art) the Resurrection.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...


You may be right about the fourth line. It isn't that I have confused the thees and thous, but rather that the "Thou" in the fourth line, as you are suggesting, may be in the vocative case. If the vocative case is being used, then "Thou" would be appropriate, and the sentence would ordinarily run, simply, thus:
"Hail!" --that is, as a greeting (from which 'hello' is derived).

And in such a case, your offering would indeed be acceptable: "Hail Thou who art the Resurrection."

The jury is still out, I'd suggest, and, as I have pointed out above, this interpretation is not shared at any of the sites I have found.

Incidentally, as you are no doubt aware, the Alleluias some have inserted were not in the original.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

I might disagree that "Thou" in the fourth line is in the vocative case. I believe that "Thou" can be used in the subjective case. i.e. "Thou sayest - You said (it)" and "Thou art the King of Glory.... - "You are the King,...")

The derivation of "hello" from "hail", is an interesting aside; but "hail" is more often a vocal salute. "All hail the King" is not a command for everyone to shout "Hello King!" (Sorry about that!)
In hymnology, "hail" is such a generic salutation.

The "Thee" in line three is not plural, it is singular. "Thee we greet triumphant now:" is a singular reference to "the Lord of Heaven." "Thee" is still the object.

" whom does "Thou" in that last line (4) refer?" "See, it's "Thou," not "Thee." Thou is subject, not object." "we might have had to render the fourth line grammatically as 'Hail ye the resurrection!'"

By my understanding, 'Thou" is the singular subjective; 'Thee" is the singular objective.

"This would mean that if the number is matched, we might have had to render the fourth line grammatically as 'Hail ye the resurrection!'" Not so, Rev. Fr.!

A is a "grammatical" interpretation of this stanza: Hail the (subjective) Lord of earth and heaven! Praise to (objective) Thee by both be given! (subjective) Thee we greet triumphant now: Hail, The Resurrection, (subjective) Thou.

Remember that Our Lord said, "I am the Resurrection and the life...." This line ends by saluting "the Resurrection" in the (singular - Thou) person of Christ Himself.

I await your reply; but I will presume to say QED (Quod Est Disputandum). (Forgive my Latin.)

Rev. Fr., correct me as necessary. I remain your humble student.

Dcn. M.o

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

If you say of the second person singular in the last line (Thou) that it is subject, then, if I understand you rightly, you are opting for a rather awkward interpretation, as an imperative, viz., "Hail Thou the resurrection," which is essentially telling Jesus to hail the resurrection.

With respect, I trow not.

Moreover, if "Hail the Lord of earth and heaven" is identical in this grammatical detail to the fourth line--a sensible interpretation--then either both referents are objects or are in the vocative, no?

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

I may have gotten myself a bit confused when I gave a "grammatical" interpretation of this stanza. I should have written:

Hail (as a salutation) the Lord of earth and heaven! Praise to Thee (direct object) by both be given! Thee (direct object) we greet triumphant now: Hail (as a salutation), the resurrection (understood as a title) Thou (the subject, the one so entitled).

It is my understanding that "Thee" and "Thou" are both second person singular pronouns. Thee is always objective case, and Thou is always subjective case.

KJV-style English makes use of inflected pronouns, a feature that has passed out of modern English.

You have asked: "to whom does "Thou" in that last line refer?" You then seem to confuse the singular and the plural between lines 3 and 4. Thee and Thou age both second person singular.

Taking KJV-style English at face value, inflected pronouns and all, and including poetic license for a touch of inverted word order, I would answer your question.

"Thou" in the last line refers directly to Christ. (As shown in my 2nd paragraph above.)

There is nothing philosophical about this. It is only understanding the grammar of the old English. At least it works for me.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Deacon, I think we are talking past one another.

I would hope I am aware of the difference between Jacobean singular and plural second person pronouns, else how could I qualify as the grammarian?

The versions of the hymn which have put "thou" in lower case, as I indicate in the main article, regard "thou" as the single 'observer', for lack of a better term, or the fellow faithful, singular. This, as I have indicated, is a bit awkward in itself, but could be attributed to poetic license.

But if "Thou" is a subjective reference to Christ, then, it seems to me, it is vocative: "Hail!" as in "Hail, Thou Prince of Peace," "Hail, Thou Son of Mary," or "Hail, Thou who art the resurrection."

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

I will agree with you that we may have been talking past each other. I do have a tendency to over-think a subject.

That being the case, I agree with your closing statement. I yield the point to you as I exit stage left.herabi